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P.82 Defiant file photo [10676]

P.82 Defiant

CountryUnited Kingdom
ManufacturerBoulton Paul Aircraft Ltd
Primary RoleHeavy Fighter
Maiden Flight11 August 1937


ww2dbaseThe P.82 Defiant turret fighters were designed in response to British Air Ministry Specification F.9/35 that asked for a turret fighter design capable of reaching 290 miles per hour in speed and reaching 15,000 feet in altitude. The design centered around the theory that hostile bombers would attack en masse, without long range fighter escorts (because they did not exist), thus turret fighters would be able to penetrate the formation with their agility and shoot down enemy bombers with the turret-mounted guns. The prototype took flight on 11 Aug 1937, and the order for production was granted by the Royal Air Force later in the same year. A carrier variant design, P.85, was tested by the Fleet Air Arm, but the naval air branch chose the B.25 Roc turret fighters made by competing firm Blackburn Aircraft Limited, instead (interestingly, however, the B.25 Roc fighters would be built by Boulton Paul factories). The Fleet Air Arm would use only a small number of P.82 Defiant fighters as target tugs.

ww2dbaseEach of the P.82 Defiant turret fighters had a license-built SAMM electro-hydraulically powered turret which housed four electrically-fired 7.7-millimeter Browning machine guns. They lacked nose- or wing-mounted forward-firing weapons common to typical fighters; however, the gunners could rotate the turrets directly forward and transfer firing control to the pilot, thus making up this weakness. In the forward-firing mode, however, the guns pointed 19 degrees upward, and the pilots did not have gun sights, thus making accurate firing difficult.

ww2dbaseWhen the European War began in Sep 1939, only three P.82 Defiant Mk. I turret fighters had been delivered, but the war soon caused production to step up, and eventually 713 Mk. I variant fighters were built. On 8 Dec 1939, the No. 264 (Madras Presidency) Squadron RAF was reformed at RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom and received these fighters. Night fighter training began in Feb 1940. The first operational sortie took place on 12 May 1940 when they, together with six Spitfire fighters of No. 66 Squadron RAF, attacked a German bomber formation and shot down a Ju 88 bomber over the Netherlands. On the following day, P.82 Defiant turret fighters shot down four German Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers, but six of them were lost to Bf 109E fighters in frontal attacks. The best day for P.82 Defiant fighters was 29 May 1940, when No. 264 Squadron RAF claimed 37 kills in two sorties, including 19 Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers, 9 Bf 110 heavy fighters, 8 Bf 109 fighters, and 1 Ju 88 bomber without any losses. Early Defiant successes were attributed to their resemblance to Hurricane fighters, leading to German pilots attempting to attack them from above and behind, thus in perfect line of fire from the quad-gunned turrets. As German fighter pilots learned to identify them with accuracy, Defiant fighters became extremely vulnerable as German fighters attacked them from the front or from below. On 19 Jul 1940, of the 9 Defiant fighters launched by the No. 141 Squadron RAF to protect a convoy, 6 of them were shot down, and the remaining 3 might had survived only because Hurricane fighters arrived on the scene as reinforcements. In late Aug 1940, with losses mounting, they were retired from day time service and were transferred to night fighter units. While obsolete as traditional fighters, they were effective as night fighters. Later in the war, the Mk II variant design entered production; Mk II variant fighters had AI Mk IV airborne interception radar equipment installed. They were gradually removed from front line service starting in 1942, but continued to serve in the rear as trainers, target tugs, and air-sea rescue aircraft; the turrets were often removed when used in these rear area roles.

ww2dbaseIn 1940, Boulton Paul created a variant design of the P.82 Defiant aircraft that had the turret removed and 12 7.7-millimeter Browning machine guns or 4 20-millimeter Hispano cannons plus 4 7.7-millimeter Browning machine guns, all installed as fixed forward-firing armament. Although this design had a theoretical top speed of 579 kilometers per hour (360 miles per hour) which rivaled the Spitfire fighters, the RAF already had enough fighter aircraft in service by that time and was not interested in yet another model.

ww2dbaseDuring the design's production life, 1,064 aircraft were built.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jul 2010

P.82 Defiant Timeline

11 Aug 1937 The first flight of the Boulton Paul Defiant aircraft was made at Wolverhampton, England, United Kingdom with Chief Test Pilot Cecil Feather at the controls. This first prototype was flown without the gun turret and with ballast added to compensate for the turret and its gunner. As such it achieved a satisfactory 302 mph, and the flying characteristics were pronounced as excellent.
29 May 1940 No. 264 Squadron RAF based at Manston, England, United Kingdom claimed no less than thirty-eight enemy aircraft destroyed in a single day. The Luftwaffe fighter pilots having mistaken No. 264 Squadron's two-seat Defiant fighters for Hurricane fighters and had dived on the supposedly defenceless tails of the British fighters only to be greeted by a withering concentration of fire. By the end of the month No. 264 Squadron's Defiant fighters would have claimed some sixty-five kills, but the German pilots had learned from their mistakes and adopted new tactics to deal with the Defiant fighters.


Mk I
MachineryOne Rolls-Royce Merlin III liquid-cooled V12 engine rated at 1,030hp
Armament4x7.7mm Browning machine guns in dorsal turret
Span11.99 m
Length10.77 m
Height3.46 m
Wing Area23.20 m²
Weight, Empty2,763 kg
Weight, Loaded3,781 kg
Weight, Maximum3,909 kg
Speed, Maximum489 km/h
Speed, Cruising417 km/h
Service Ceiling9,250 m
Range, Maximum749 km


P.82 Defiant turret fighter in flight, circa 1940P.82 Defiant turret fighters of No. 264 Squadron RAF in flight, date unknown
See all 4 photographs of P.82 Defiant Heavy Fighter

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
8 Apr 2011 08:55:49 PM

Another unsung hero of the Battle of Britain
was the Boulton-Paul Defiant, the aircraft was armed w/four.303 (7.7mm) machine guns
mounted in a powered turret with gunner.


The pilot had no forward fixed armament, and had to coordinate with his gunner the turret was able to fire in a wide sweep in any direction against enemy bombers, but what about enemy fighters!


Ten Defiants were attacked by about thirty Messerschmitt Bf-109s the Defiants buying time until the 109s had to break off the attack and head back to France, the Bf 109 had about twenty minutes of combat time over England, formed a defensive circle, shooting down six fighters with the loss of three Defaints. The Defiant entered service in 1939 production was 1,064.
During the Battle of Britain it was at first successful in shooting down Ju-87s, Bf-110s and a few Bf-109s the fighters thinking they were Hurricanes came in from behind the
(Six O'Clock Position) and were taken by surprise by the Defiants battery of four.303 machine guns, and were shotdown, after this the Germans started to make head on attacks.

Once Luftwaffe pilots realized there was no forward armament Defiant losses mounted, and
it was withdrawn from day operations, and switched to night missions in this role the
Defiant was somewhat successful, as newer a/c
came into service, the Defiant was replaced in 1942.
Many were used as target tugs, trainers and air-sea rescue aircraft others were used to instruct airframe mechanics.
Both the RAF and Royal Navy used the Defiant
in the Middle East, Africa and India.


Boulton-Paul developed a prototype removing
the turret and fitted it with 12x.303 machine guns, six per wing or 4x20mm Hispano cannons that would replace eight of the MGs
but this prototype never entered serivce.


After WW II the Defiant was retired some were
used in various duties or were scrapped.
Surviving Defiants were assigned to the RAF Test Establishment at Farnborough for
ejection-seat tests, the last operational
Defiants were used in India as target tugs.


There are four Defiants left in the world today, but one compllete example is on display at the RAF Museum Hendon, London this
aircraft was retired and placed in storage and later sent to the RAF Museum in 1971.
2. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
9 Apr 2011 03:15:18 PM

By August 1940 the Luftwaffe destroyed about half of the Defiants built, the rest were lost due to accidents. The Defiant had no
armament mounted in the wings, for the pilot
and had to coordinate with his gunner who
operated the Frazer-Nash hydraulically powered turret armed w/four.303 machine guns with 600rpg giving the gunner a total of 2400 rounds.

The Defiant first flew in 1937 and the RAF placed an ordered for 400 aircraft only three
were in service when war broke out on September 1, 1939 However, by December 1939 the first operational group were formed.
The Defiant was powered by 1xRolls-Royce
Merlin 12-cyliner liquid-cooled engine of
1,030hp, later models had improved Merlin III
with 1,280hp engines, top speed 304mph, range
400miles, service ceiling 30,000ft, number built 1,064 aircraft.

The Defiant was withdrawn from daytime operations due to losses, and replaced by the Bristol Beaufighter the Defiant was used as a two-seat night-fighter and carried early airborne intercept radar for night attacks.
At its peak strength, the RAF had thirteen Squadrons operating the Defiant, in spite of its losses, the Defiant shotdown more German
aircraft than any other RAF aircraft when you consider the RAF had the Hurricane and Spitfire.
3. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
9 Apr 2011 04:21:53 PM

Boulton-Paul Aircraft Ltd. was founded in
1934, but the companies origins lay as far back as 1914.
The company built and modified aircraft under contract, but did have a few designs of its own. Boulton-Paul became defunt in 1961 but, in the early years of the jet age, the company worked on the English Electric Canberra Jet Bomber and the de Havilland Vampire Jet Fighter.


Another aircraft designed with the four-gun powered turret, was the Blackburn Roc built
by Blackburn Aircraft Ltd. The first flight was in 1938, the Roc was a development of the
Blackburn Skua-Dive Bomber, and used the same
Frazer-Nash powered turret w/four.303/7.7mm
browning machine guns.
The Roc was built by Boulton-Paul and was built along side the Defiant on the company production line. Like the Defiant, the Roc was later used as a trainer and target tug
until 1943 when it was withdrawn from service
Powered by 1xBristol Perseus XII radial air-
cooled engine of 890hp, speed 223mph, range 700miles, service ceiling 18,000ft.
Armament 4x303 browning machine guns w/600rpg
2400rounds in a powered turret.
4. Anonymous says:
26 Jul 2018 06:00:31 AM

P.82 Defiant, if only the had given it fixed forward gun , 109 loses would have been high
5. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
12 Aug 2018 03:41:04 AM

The claim of 37 German aircraft destroyed by Defiants on 29 May, during two fighting patrols, now appears to have been considerably exaggerated. Postwar examination of Luftwaffe records reveals that on that day only 14 German aircraft were actually lost.

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Related Document:
» British Weekly Fighter Aircraft Production, Apr-Oct 1940

P.82 Defiant Heavy Fighter Photo Gallery
P.82 Defiant turret fighter in flight, circa 1940P.82 Defiant turret fighters of No. 264 Squadron RAF in flight, date unknown
See all 4 photographs of P.82 Defiant Heavy Fighter

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